First woman to lead IRS crime unit in Chicago gives first TV interview

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The new special agent in charge of IRS criminal investigations in Chicago, Kathy Enstrom, says "it goes back to greed" when politicians and others cheat on their taxes.

In her first TV interview, Enstrom spoke with the ABC7 I-Team on an important anniversary date in the annals of the agency-involving notorious Chicago gangster Al Capone. 90-years ago it was "Scarface" who put tax investigations on the public radar. The government couldn't make a murder case against Capone but got him on taxes and that is a legacy that Enstrom says continues today.

"We always have to keep up with the bad guys" she told investigative reporter Chuck Goudie during an exclusive interview in the agency's Loop offices. "They're always thinking of something new."

The taxman may carry a pen and paper. The first tax woman to run Chicago's IRS criminal investigation unit has a badge and a gun, as do all of her criminal tax investigators here.

"We do not find that many weapons" she said, "but we are federal law enforcement agents so we are prepared to find whatever might be behind that door."

In the months since Enstrom came on the job as special agent in charge, a lot of doors have been seen with federal officers walking out carrying out boxes of evidence. They have been the doors to offices of government officials and business leaders targeted in corruption investigations.

In many of those cases, IRS criminal division investigators use data analytics to make sense of where the money is from, where it's going and where it may be hidden.

In her 24 years on the job, Enstrom says many aspects of investigations have changed.

"We're now getting into tracing if people are using bitcoin or virtual currency" she said. "We are getting into tracing that using block chain and analysis and following that money. And so in that particular network the cyber, the dark web network..."

She said that tax authorities have a leg up in open investigations.

"If there is a tax investigation and I have authorized a tax investigation in an individual we do not need a search warrant to look at tax information" Enstrom said.

As an accountant, the Chicago agent in charge says IRS criminal cases rely on paper trails-sometimes digital these days-that yield very high conviction rates.

"Once we put together a case and it goes through the appropriate approval process almost 92-percent of the time we get a conviction" she said. "That's one of the highest conviction rates of all federal law-enforcement agents."

There are 22 IRS criminal division field offices in the U.S. She is one of six women currently in charge.

Perhaps more notably in Chicago-during the past year-there have been four newly-appointed agents in charge of the top federal law enforcement agencies here: IRS, ATF, DEA and the FBI.
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